Like just about every year since the early 1970s, Chris Christian will be in Hollywood as part of American music royalty at the 58th annual Grammy Awards on Monday night.
A Grammy winner four times, those ornaments of a life well lived in Nashville and Los Angeles are on display throughout the home of the now Dallasite, a singer, songwriter and record producer who is perhaps best known for a song Elvis Presley liked and recorded.
But today it’s WNBA trophies he dreams about.
Christian is marching to a different beat as the Dallas Wings’ vice chairman and managing partner.
In music, Christian found the fuel of love. He’s now found it in women’s basketball, and, in the spirit of Shakespeare, he says play on.
“One of the legacies I’d like to leave to Dallas-Fort Worth is to have the greatest female athletes come through here so fathers and daughters can come see them,” Christian said.
“I didn’t have that opportunity when Savannah [his daughter] was growing up. I couldn’t take her to see the greatest athletes that she could strive to be. I want to help with that legacy.”
That is indeed a go. The Wings will debut in May for the 20th season of the WNBA playing at the College Park Center at UT Arlington.
The prospects for women’s basketball in this area have changed dramatically since the Dallas Diamonds’ failed attempt in the early 1980s. The WNBA has an established partner in the NBA, and girls basketball, particularly in Fort Worth and Dallas, is as strong as any region of the country.
Girls from the area have Christian to thank for being able to see the greatest female players in the world come through town.
Christian’s idea of a “legacy” of providing strong role models for young girls wasn’t something he just dreamed up one day while sitting at a piano crafting music.
He came with his guitar and started singing the song I had heard on the radio. About halfway through the song I looked up and said I knew what I wanted to do.
Chris Christian on the day he knew he wanted to be a performer
It’s his experience. Christian is well aware of the impact a role model can have because that’s how his career of distinction began.
His fourth-grade teacher at Crockett Elementary in Abilene had a musician son with a popular tune playing on the radio. The teacher asked her son to come to school and sing.
“He came with his guitar and started singing the song I had heard on the radio,” Christian said. “About halfway through the song I looked up and said I knew what I wanted to do. I went out and bought a ukulele, then started playing the piano and all that.
“It’s the same with basketball. Girls will come, they’ll look up and say, ‘that’s what I want to do.’ ”
In addition to four Grammy Awards, he has written songs for Natalie Cole, Dionne Warwick, Olivia Newton-John, Sheena Easton, The Carpenters, Hall and Oates and Elvis — yes, that Elvis, who brought to life a song, Love Song of the Year, Christian had written as a high school student at Abilene High School.
I used to laugh I used to cry
I used to laugh, these feelings passed me by
From now on I’ll make it very clear cos’ I don’t want to write
Another love song of the year.
“I thought he was playing at first when he mentioned it,” said guard Odyssey Sims of the Elvis connection. “But he did. Then he started naming songs, and I said, ‘I don’t know any of those, but thanks.’
“I think that’s cool. Elvis obviously was a legend in music.”
As a gospel producer, Christian discovered Amy Grant, and his Studios at Las Colinas grew to be the largest motion picture sound stage in the South and where he also discovered collecting.
A visit to his office is a walk into show biz fantasy: Forrest Gump’s shoes, shorts and shirt and the bench he sat on waiting for the bus, Christopher Reeve’s Superman costume, Eddie Murphy’s employee of the month plaque as Akeem in Coming to America, and the guitar of super slacker Wayne of Wayne’s World, among many other collectibles.
My daughter was starting to really excel in basketball. So, I got my video camera and went to every practice and every game. Every time she dropped a basketball, it’s on tape.
Chris Christian on how he fell in love with basketball
His newest production, however, is basketball, a sport that was transformed for him into obsession and passion, if not an addiction, through his daughter Savannah’s high school and college playing days.
“My daughter was starting to really excel in basketball. So, I got my video camera and went to every practice and every game. Every time she dropped a basketball, it’s on tape.”
Savannah is now grown, her playing days past her. But through her, Christian found what he wanted to do with the second part of his life: fill the gaping hole in the Dallas-Fort Worth professional sports landscape with an expansion WNBA team.
He bought into the ownership group of the Tulsa Shock to learn the ropes, so when the league expanded into North Texas, Christian would be ready. That changed when Bill Cameron, the majority owner of the Shock, decided he wanted to move the team to Dallas.
Cameron remains majority owner and chairman of the Wings.
Christian’s vision is to build a team to last on the motto of “faith, family, friends and fun,” with “rock stars” in every position, from the basketball floor to the ticket office to the front office.
“I knew how much this meant to him and his legacy,” said David Swatzell, the team’s president. “The bedrock for that legacy is knowing that you can make a difference in young women’s lives. Also, in family lives, with fathers who struggle to really understand and connect with their daughters and are looking for an experience both can enjoy. This is a platform for that.”
Said Christian: “If you have a daughter, even if basketball isn’t her cup of tea, she’ll at least see women who worked very hard to achieve the top level of their profession.
“This is great entertainment and great basketball, but hopefully there will be all those other things, too.”